Planning a Rehearsal Dinner

Guest Post by Alice Hendry

Alice Hendry is a full-time, full-service, second generation wedding planner. In her 20 years of experience, Alice has created many beautiful weddings with many brides of a variety of styles ranging from the very simple to the most elaborate and elegant in venues, both here in Nashville and abroad. No two are alike. Her role in each wedding is unique, meeting the needs of each bride to bring her wedding to life with meaning and magnitude. Recently, Chef’s Market had the pleasure of working with Alice Hendry and the happy couple Julie Eskind and Andrew Galbierz for a rehearsal dinner hosted by Andrew’s parents, Melody and Tom Galbierz, at Clementine.
All photos below are from this rehearsal dinner and were taken by
Kristin Sweeting Photography.

When you think of a rehearsal dinner, it seems that most host it as an obligation on the groom’s part, BUT it is really so much more than an obligation! It is a wonderful opportunity to kick off the wedding weekend and a nod to “the groom’s night!” It is the important night that you bring your nearest and dearest together to prepare your hearts and minds for the wedding day!

It is the first time of the weekend that brings both sides of families and friends together, so it important to plan a casual cocktail time for all to meet and greet! Aunt Lucy and Uncle Frank of the bride’s family will need to meet crazy Cousin Judi of the groom’s family, so that all will then be familiar with one another on the wedding day! 

In addition to cocktails, be sure to offer a fruit tea or something special for those non-drinkers to enjoy! All can also enjoy several passed apps while visiting before seating for dinner. Be sure to offer a variety of passed finger foods to compliment the dinner…. not forgetting the second cousin that is vegan! Choosing foods that do not duplicate the wedding day menu is also important. Typically, the rehearsal dinner menu is a bit less formal, so incorporating a theme such as “southern foods” could be a fun flair! 

The room layout is important. It is great to have central visible head table for the bride and groom flanked by their parents rather than the wedding party. This will give it a less formal feel and a nod to the importance of family going into the next day. Allow a maximum of eight per table rather than 10 that is usually slated as the table capacity as there will be a lot of seated time, and the extra space allows guests to push their chair back to see and be comfortable during toasting! If space allows, it is always great to include additional soft seating for cocktails and after dinner for those wanting to gather more comfortably not around a table.

Music is great to include for a fun festive flair! Upbeat instrumental music is great to fill the air for all to enjoy without the vocals. A word of caution to not include dance music to upstage wedding reception!   

After cocktail hour, the Father of Groom can open the evening as the host of the dinner with a warm welcome. It is wonderful to acknowledge and honor the grandparents that are present. This can then lead to a blessing and invitation to enjoy dinner explaining if there is assigned seating and any specifics needed to be shared on the style of the dinner (plated or stations or buffet).

As dinner concludes, a photo montage is great to share showcasing photos of the bride growing up, then the groom growing up and then photos of the bride and groom together. Each segment of the photo montage (bride, groom, bride & groom) can have a fun piece of music to accompany the photos. The photos will bring a very personal and sentimental feeling and truly prepare all hearts to parlay to wedding day!

As dinner is concluding, the Father of the Groom or Best Man can introduce the toasting time. All can push back their chairs as the champagne is served and enjoy the fun! It is best to have no more than six or seven toasts of no more than five minutes each – total of about 30 minutes. The Father of Groom as host of the evening can then conclude with an invitation to stay awhile for a fun coffee station or bourbon and cigars as another nod to the groom night as things wrap up!

Occasionally, the rehearsal dinner is followed by a welcome party! Your out-of-town guests have had time to arrive, check in to their hotels and are excited and anxious to stop-in to kick-off the fun of the wedding weekend! If hosting this additional time, it is always great to offer additional desserts or charcuterie to enjoy with cocktails or coffee.  

After everyone has enjoyed the eve of the wedding together, you’ll see that it is quite significant to enjoy the warm and meaningful moments and allow time for all to meet, greet, laugh, cry and share the excitement together. Your heart and minds are now ready for the wonderfulness of the wedding day!


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